LTPA Deliberations - Rates Review for a fairer distribution of rates
Published on June 01, 2023
After a lengthy debate, Horowhenua District Council determined to leave the rating system as it currently is. Council also requested that Council Officers commit to a further review of the Rates Remission and Rates Postponement policies during the first quarter of 2023/24, considering options to address affordability.
The Rates Review was one of the key topics Council considered at the Long Term Plan 2021-2041 Amendment (LTPA) Deliberations meeting, held on Wednesday 31 May 2023.
Mayor Bernie Wanden says, “With the cost of living increasing and the inflation rate sitting at a 35 year high, affordability of household expenses including rates is front of mind for everyone, including Council. In everything Council does, we remember that it’s funded either by ratepayers or grants from Central Government, or fees from our facilities and developers. And we take that responsibility seriously.”
Given the district’s high deprivation and the fact that close to 25% of our population are over 65, Council has a responsibility to ensure rates are being fairly distributed across the community. In preparation for the LTPA, Elected Members started looking at options for whether there should be a change to the way rates are shared across the district. A key driver for the exploration of change was the aim of making rates more equitable and alleviating some of the affordability issues for those on lower incomes in the district.
“All Councillors were genuinely trying to achieve the fairest way to determine how to rate and what option would be best suited for all ratepayers,” says Mayor Bernie.
Currently, the general rate is almost 25% of the rates bill and is charged based on the property's Land Value (LV). There was strong support for and against rating based on capital value (CV). All three options impact the community but in different ways. During the consultation process, Elected Members heard that there were some affordability issues for community members with higher value properties on fixed incomes and rural farming families experiencing lower incomes.
“As Elected Members, we believe rates should be shared fairly and equitably across the district. We wanted to ensure that those fees and charges are fair and that those using Council facilities pay their share,” adds Deputy Mayor David Allan.
Council reviewed the current rating system, which sets out who pays and for what. Several options were modelled and three options were put forward for consultation as part of the LTPA.
The three options outlined in the LTPA Consultation Document for submitters to consider and choose from were:
- Option 1 - Leave the rating system as it currently is. This was the most popular option for submitters, with 235 submissions in favour.
- Option 2 - Calculate general rate based on capital value. 74 submissions were in favour of this option.
- Option 3 - Calculate general rate based on capital value, but include a rural differential. 23 submissions were in favour of this option.
“As expected, the proposed rates review has created a significant amount of conversation in the community. A large number of submissions, (332) were received on the Rates Review consultation topic. This means that 79.6% of all submitters who participated in the LTPA consultation commented on the Rates Review topic,” explains Mayor Bernie.
Council consulted widely on this topic. “All ratepayers received a letter outlining the proposed rate change and the drivers of the proposed rate increase. Community meetings were hosted, targeted at ratepayer’s associations to ensure that all key interest groups were engaged early. Two additional community meetings were held, one in Manakau and one in rural Levin, for the rural farming community to answer questions and address concerns. A Facebook Live session was hosted and Council presented the key content of the proposed LTPA at a Grey Power meeting and to the Horowhenua District Ratepayers and Residents Association.”
As Council decided to go with Option 1 and leave the rating system as it currently is, some community members who received a letter stating that their proposed rate would decrease might now receive a letter to reflect this differently as the decision differs from the proposed option.
Council also approved an average rates increase of 7.0% (after accounting for growth), acknowledging that the rates increase falls differently across the district due to valuation changes and by making further service reductions in the draft Long Term Plan 2021-2041 Amendment.
The live streaming of Council’s deliberations and the Elected Members’ discussion can be viewed on Council’s YouTube channel.
To learn more about the history of the Rates Review for a fairer distribution of rates, visit letskorero.horowhenua.govt.nz/issue-1-rates-review